Part 10 Trapusha and Bhallika

The Buddha never moved. He remained under the tree, his legs crossed. He was filled with bliss at having attained perfect knowledge. One whole week he remained under the tree of knowledge, without moving. The second week he went on a long journey; he travelled through all the worlds. The third week he again remained under the tree of knowledge, and he never once blinked his eyes. The fourth week he went on a short journey, from the eastern sea to the western sea. It was then that Mara, whom defeat had left inconsolable, went to the Buddha and spoke these evil words: “Blessed One, why do you tarry, you who know the path to deliverance? Blow out the lamp, quench the flame; enter nirvana, O Blessed One; the hour has come.” But the Blessed One answered: “No, Mara, I shall not quench the flame, I shall not enter nirvana. I must first gain many disciples, and they, in turn, must win others over to my law. By word and by deed I must silence my adversaries. No, Mara, I shall not enter nirvana until the Buddha is glorified throughout the world, until his beneficent law is recognized.”

The fifth week the Blessed One remained under the tree. But, suddenly, there blew a bitter wind, and a cold rain fell. Then Mucilinda, the serpent-king, said to himself: “The Blessed One must not suffer from the rain or from the cold.” He left his home. Seven times he coiled himself around the Buddha, and he spread his hood above the Buddha’s head to shelter him. And thus the Buddha suffered not at all during this period of bad weather. The sixth week he went to a fig-tree where goatherds often forgathered. There, some Gods awaited him, and they humbly bowed as he approached. He said. “Meekness is sweet to him who knows the law; kindness is sweet to him who can see; meekness is sweet to all creatures; kindness is sweet to all creatures. Blessed is he who has not a desire in the world; blessed is he who has conquered sin; blessed is he who has escaped the torture of the senses; blessed is he who no longer thirsts for existence!”

The seventh week he remained under the tree of knowledge. Two brothers, Trapusha and Bhallika, were returning to the northern countries. They were merchants and had five hundred chariots in their train. As they came near the tree, the chariots stopped. In vain did the drivers try to encourage or goad the beasts that drew them; they could not advance a step. The wheels kept sinking in the mud up to the hubs. Trapusha and Bhallika became alarmed, but a God appeared who reassured them and said: “Walk a little way, O merchants, and you will find one to whom you should do homage.” Trapusha and Bhallika saw the Blessed One. His face was radiant. “Is it the God of some river or the God of the mountain?” they wondered. “Could it be Brahma himself?” But upon looking at his garments, they thought: “It must be some monk. Perhaps he would like something to eat.”

Trapusha and Bhallika went to the chariot that carried the provisions. They found flour and honey cakes, and they brought them to the Buddha. “Take them, saintly man,” they said, offering him the cakes, “take them and be gracious to us.” The Blessed One had no bowl in which to receive alms. He did not know what to do. The Gods, who were watching at the four quarters of the earth, saw his perplexity, and they quickly brought him bowls made of gold. But the Blessed One said to himself: “Truly, it would be unseemly for a monk to receive alms in a golden bowl.” And he refused the golden bowls. The Gods then brought him silver bowls, which he also refused. He likewise refused emerald bowls, and he would only accept bowls made of stone. He then received the cakes the merchants offered him. When he had finished eating, he said: “The blessing of the Gods be with you, merchants! Prosper and be happy!” Trapusha and Bhallika rejoiced, and they were the first to profess their faith in the Buddha and in the law.

Notes

Trapusha: Or Tapassu. He was a merchant of Ukkala. He and his friend, Bhalluka (or Bhallika), while on their way to Rajagriha, saw the Buddha at the foot of the Rajayatana tree, in the eighth week after the Enlightenment. Urged by a deity they offered the Buddha rice-cakes and honey in a bowl provided by the Four Regent Gods. They became the first lay disciples of the Buddha, and their formula of Refuge contained no reference to the Sangha. According to the Theragatha Commentary, Tapassu and Bhalluka were brothers, sons of a caravan leader. In the tract above, the meeting is said to take place in the seventh week.

Bhallika: Or Bhalluka, Bhalliya. Younger brother of Tapassu, their father being a caravan leader from Ukkala. While they were going along with five hundred trading carts, they stopped near the Rajayatana tree where the Buddha was sitting, eight weeks after his Enlightenment. They accepted the Buddha and the Dhamma as their Refuge (becoming his first lay disciples), and obtained from the Buddha a few hairs as an object of worship.

Ukkala: A district (janapada) identified with modern Orissa from which the merchants Tapassu and Bhalluka hailed. They were on the way from Ukkala to Rajagriha, when the deva advised them to visit the Buddha.

Image Attribution: The image above, sourced from Wikimedia Commons, is a painting of Trapusha and Bhallika meeting the Buddha. It has been produced and uploaded by the Burmese artist Hintha, and shows Gautama Buddha blessing the merchants. He is said to have given them eight strands of his hair, which are now housed as relics inside Myanmar’s Shwedagon Pagoda.

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